In the wake of losing the 2019 Stanley Cup Final in seven games to the St. Louis Blues, the Boston Bruins are facing a tight salary cap situation that could prevent them from bringing back all of their talented players.
On paper, an easy move to free up some space would involve dumping David Backes. The 35-year-old was inactive for a good chunk of the team's postseason run and only had 20 total points last season. But Backes, set to make $6 million this season, has buyout protections in his contract and is due another $6 million in the 2020-21 season. And as one assistant GM pointed out, that makes the contract unmovable.
“Impossible to move,” said one assistant GM of Backes' contract to The Athletic's Fluto Shinzawa. “It would be a high-end pick plus a prospect. The only way is a bad contract for a bad contract.”
The Bruins certainly wouldn't like to pay that type of price to offload Backes. But that may mean some sacrifices elsewhere on the roster.
Right now, the Bruins have a few players on their roster set to hit restricted free agency. Young building blocks Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen are all due raises and potential long-term contracts moving forward. Additionally, key bottom-six players Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari are going to be unrestricted free agents, and one would think that the Bruins would have an interest in bringing that duo back -- and Johansson in particular.
However, the Bruins don't have a lot of projected cap space. CapFriendly.com projects the Bruins to have just under $13 million in space. That may be enough to bring back the restricted players, but it may keep Johansson from rejoining the team.
While clearing Backes' contract could open the space needed to bring back Johansson, it simply appears to be too high of a price to pay to get rid of him. They have a lot of intriguing young talent in their system, so they may turn to them instead if they can't afford to keep some of the free agents on their roster.
Also, it's notable that throughout the offseason, Don Sweeney has praised Backes' veteran leadership and seems to think that he can still contribute. Backes may play on the fourth line and while $6 million would still be a pretty penny for a fourth-line player, at least the Bruins could use him and wouldn't have to sacrifice long-term assets to get rid of him.
We'll soon see if anything changes for the Bruins, but for the time being, it seems likely that Backes will be back for another season.
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